Attorney: ‘Officer Rolfe has received more justice than the family of Rayshard Brooks’

  L. Chris Stewart, who represents the familie of Rayshard Brooks talks at a press conference called by nearly two dozen attorneys who are currently suing the city of Atlanta on behalf of victims of police brutality on the steps of City Hall Monday, October 26, 2020. STEVE SCHAEFER / SPECIAL TO THE AJC
Caption
L. Chris Stewart, who represents the familie of Rayshard Brooks talks at a press conference called by nearly two dozen attorneys who are currently suing the city of Atlanta on behalf of victims of police brutality on the steps of City Hall Monday, October 26, 2020. STEVE SCHAEFER / SPECIAL TO THE AJC

Credit: Steve Schaefer

Credit: Steve Schaefer

Garrett Rolfe, who shot Brooks last June, reinstated to APD

The attorneys representing the family of Rayshard Brooks blasted the city’s handling of the firing of reinstated Atlanta police officer Garrett Rolfe, charged with murder in the fatal shooting of Brooks last June.

“We find it mind-boggling they weren’t aware of the proper procedure,” said attorney Chris Stewart. “Was that done to temporarily pacify the protesters and people around the world who were upset?”

ExploreAPD officer who shot Rayshard Brooks reinstated

The city’s Civil Service Board announced Wednesday it was revoking Rolfe’s dismissal due to the city’s failure to abide by its own policies. Rolfe, said the board, was not afforded his right to due process. Atlanta police said in a statement that Rolfe will be placed on administrative leave.

“Right now, Officer Rolfe has received more justice than the family of Rayshard Brooks,” Stewart said.

MORE: Read the Civil Service Board ruling reinstating Garrett Rolfe

Rolfe was fired last June one day after he shot Brooks in a Wendy’s parking lot. A scuffle followed after Brooks struck the other officer on the scene, grabbed his Taser and aimed it at Rolfe, who then fired multiple shots.

Within a week, Rolfe was charged with murder by former Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard.

But that case has yet to move forward. Howard’s successor, Fani Willis, has sought to recuse her office from prosecuting the case, citing a conflict due to her predecessor’s handling of the investigation.

Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr denied Willis’ request, and a judge has yet to rule who should handle the prosecution, if it moves forward at all.

“It appears Rayshard Brooks’ life really didn’t matter, and the world has moved on,” Stewart said.

Stewart and his co-counsel Justin Miller questioned the city’s commitment to justice.

“The city, the police department and the DA’s office are not really serious about civil rights,” Miller said.

In a statement, Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms defended the decision to fire Rolfe.

“Given the volatile state of our city and nation last summer, the decision to terminate this officer, after he fatally shot Mr. Brooks in the back, was the right thing to do,” she said. “Had immediate action not been taken, I firmly believe that the public safety crisis we experienced during that time would have been significantly worse.”

Brooks’ family reacted to the news about Rolfe’s reinstatement with “disappointment and confusion,” Miller said.

Stewart noted the mistakes made in Rolfe’s dismissal mirrored those in another case involving two officers fired for their role in the aggressive arrests of two college students during last summer’s protests in downtown Atlanta. In February, the Civil Service Board reinstated officers Mark Gardner and Ivory Streeter, who still face a variety of criminal charges, including aggravated assault and simple battery.

“This was really procedural,” Stewart said. “And the procedures were not followed.”

“It’s the same feeling of limbo and being ignored that we have in the criminal case and the civil case,” he continued. “It is a pattern of being ignored.”